This glossary of terms is limited in scope, and the definitions of words are restricted in meaning to their legal or legal research context. Words whose meanings conform to general usage and are obvious are omitted from the list, e.g., Index.

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The verdict in a criminal trial in which the defendant is found not guilty.


An alternative name for statutory law. When introduced into the first house of the legislature, a piece of proposed legislation is known as a bill. When passed to the next house, it may then be referred to as an act. After enactment, the terms law and act may be used interchangeably. An act has the same legislative force as a joint resolution but is technically distinguishable, being of a different form and introduced with the words "be it enacted" instead of "be it resolved."


 The formal legal demand of one's rights from another person brought in court.


The formal pronouncing or recording of a judgment or decree by a court.

Administrative agency-

A governmental authority, other than a legislature or court, which issues rules and regulations or adjudicates disputes arising under its statutes and regulations. Administrative agencies usually act under authority delegated by the legislature.

Administrative law-

Law that affects private parties, promulgated by governmental agencies other than courts or legislative bodies. These administrative agencies derive their power from legislative enactments and are subject to judicial review.

Advance sheets-

Current pamphlets containing the most recently reported opinions of a court or the courts of several jurisdictions. The volume and page numbers usually are the same as in the subsequently bound volumes of the series, which cover several numbers of the advance sheets.

Advisory opinion-

An opinion rendered by a court at the request of the government or an interested party that indicates how the court would rule on a matter should adversary litigation develop. An advisory opinion is thus an interpretation of the law without binding effect. The international court of justice and some state courts will render advisory opinions; the supreme court of the united states will not.


A written statement or declaration of facts sworn to by the maker, taken before a person officially permitted by law to administer oaths.

ALWD citation manual-

A manual of legal citation form prepared by the association of legal writing directors.

Alternative dispute resolution-

The process of resolving disputes through such means as mediation or arbitration rather than through litigation.

Amicus curiae-

Means, literally, friend of the court. A party with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of the dispute will petition the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views.


(1) statutory: brief summaries of the law and facts of cases interpreting statutes passed by congress or state legislatures that are included in codes; or (2) textual: expository essays of varying length on significant legal topics chosen from selected cases published with the essays.


The pleading filed by the defendant in response to plaintiff's complaint.

Appeal papers-

The briefs and transcripts of records on appeal filed by attorneys with courts in connection with litigation.


The party who requests that a higher court review the actions of a lower court. Compare with appellee.


The party against whom an appeal is taken (usually, but not always, the winner in the lower court). It should be noted that a party's status as appellant or appellee bears no relation to his or her status as plaintiff or defendant in the lower court.


The hearing and settlement of a dispute between opposing parties by a third party. This decision is often binding by prior agreement of the parties.


An unlawful, intentional show of force or an attempt to do physical harm to another person. Assault can constitute the basis of a civil or criminal action. See also battery.

Assault and battery -

See battery.

Attorney general opinion-

An opinion issued by the government's chief counsel at the request of some governmental body interpreting the law for the requesting agency in the same manner as a private attorney would for his or her client. The opinion is not binding on the court but is usually accorded some degree of persuasive authority.


That which can bind or influence a court. Case law, legislation, constitutions, administrative regulations, and writings about the law are all legal authority. See primary authority; mandatory authority; persuasive authority.

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Security given, in the form of a bail bond or cash, as a guarantee that released prisoners will present themselves for trial. This security may be lost if the released person does not appear in court at the appointed time.


An unlawful use of force against another person resulting in physical contact (a tort); it is commonly used in the phrase "assault and battery," assault being the threat of force, and battery the actual use of force. See also assault.


A legislative proposal introduced in the legislature. The term distinguishes unfinished legislation from enacted law.

Black letter law-

An informal term indicating the basic principles of law generally accepted by the courts and/or embodied in the statutes of a particular jurisdiction.


A manual of legal citation form published by the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, and University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

Boolean logic-

A form of search strategy used in databases, such as westlaw and lexisnexis. In a boolean search, connectors such as and, or, and not are used to construct a complex search command. The command "fungible and gasoline" for example, retrieves documents in which the term fungible and the term gasoline both appear. Compare with natural language.

Breach of contract-

The failure to perform any of the terms of an agreement.


(1) in American law practice, a written statement prepared by the counsel arguing a case in court. It contains a summary of the facts of the case, the pertinent laws, and an argument of how the law applies to the facts supporting counsel's position; (2) a summary of a published opinion of a case prepared for studying the opinion in law school.

Briefs and records-

See appeal papers.

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Can mean the order in which cases are to be heard during a term of court. Martindale-Hubbell law directory contains calendars for state and federal courts, and includes the name of the court, the name of the judge, and the date of the term's beginning.


An acronym for computer-assisted legal research. Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis are CALR systems.


See style of a case.

Case in point-

A judicial opinion which deals with a fact situation similar to the one being researched and substantiates a point of law to be asserted. (also called "case on all fours.")

Case law-

The law of reported judicial opinions as distinguished from statutes or administrative law.


A textbook used to instruct law students in a particular area of law. The text consists of a collection of court opinions, usually from appellate courts, and notes by the author(s).

Cause of action-

A claim in law and in fact sufficient to bring the case to court; the grounds of an action. (example: breach of contract.)


An abbreviation for "compact disk-read only memory." A compact disk is a disk approximately 4 inches in diameter on which data is coded to be scanned by a laser beam and transmitted to a computer monitor. A large volume of data can be stored on such a disk.


A writ issued by a superior to an inferior court requiring the latter to produce the records of a particular case tried therein. It is most commonly used to refer to the supreme court of the united states, which uses the writ of certiorari as a discretionary device to choose the cases it wishes to hear. The term's origin is latin, meaning to be informed of.


A document issued by a governmental entity that gives a corporation legal existence.


Any article of personal property, as opposed to real property. It may refer to animate as well as inanimate property.


Any article of personal property. See property.


The reference to authority necessary to substantiate the validity of one's argument or position. Citation to authority and supporting references is both important and extensive in any form of legal writing. Citation form is also given emphasis in legal writing, and early familiarity with the Bluebook: a uniform system of citation will stand the law student in good stead.


A set of books and online sources that provide the subsequent judicial history and interpretation of reported cases or lists of cases and legislative enactments construing, applying, or affecting statutes. In America, the most widely used citators are Shepard's citations and Keycite.

Cited case-

A case that is referred to by other cases.

Citing case-

The case that refers to the cited case.

Civil law-

(1) Roman law embodied in the code of Justinian, which presently prevails in most countries of Western Europe other than Great Britain and that is the foundation of louisiana law; (2) the law concerning noncriminal matters in a common law jurisdiction.


(1) the assertion of a right, as to money or property; (2) the accumulation of facts that give rise to a right enforceable in court.

Class action-

A lawsuit brought by a representative party on behalf of a group, all of whose members have the same or a similar grievance against the defendant.


In popular usage, a compilation of statutes. Technically, in a code, the laws in force and judicial decrees having the force of law, are rewritten and arranged in classified order. Repealed and temporary acts are eliminated and the revision is reenacted.


The process of collecting and arranging systematically, usually by subject, the laws of a state or country.

Common law-

The origin of the Anglo-American legal systems. English common law was largely customary law and unwritten, until discovered, applied, and reported by the courts of law. In theory, the common law courts did not create law but rather discovered it in the customs and habits of the english people. The strength of the judicial system in preparliamentary days is one reason for the continued emphasis in common law systems on case law. In a narrow sense, common law is the phrase still used to distinguish case law from statutory law.

Compiled statutes-

In popular usage, a code. Technically, it is a compilation of acts printed verbatim as originally enacted but in a new classified order. The text is not modified; however, repealed and temporary acts are omitted.


The plaintiff's initial pleading. Under federal rules of civil procedure, it is no longer full of the technicalities demanded by the common law. A complaint need only contain a short and plain statement of the claim upon which relief is sought, an indication of the type of relief requested, and an indication that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case.


See boolean logic.


Something to be done, or abstained from, by one party to a contract in order to induce another party to enter into a contract.

Consolidated statutes-

In popular usage, a code. Technically, it is a compilation of acts rewritten, arranged in classified order, and reenacted. Repealed and temporary acts are eliminated.


The system of fundamental principles by which a political body or organization governs itself. Most national constitutions are written; the english and israeli constitutions are unwritten.


The wrongful appropriation to oneself of the personal property of another.


The transfer of title to property from one person to another.


A separate and independent claim. A civil petition or a criminal indictment may contain several counts.


A claim made by the defendant against the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit; it constitutes a separate cause of action.

Court decision-

The disposition of the case by the court. See opinion.

Court rules-

Rules of procedure promulgated to govern civil and criminal practice before the courts.

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Monetary compensation awarded by a court for an injury caused by the act of another. Damages may be actual or compensatory (equal to the amount of loss shown), exemplary or punitive (in excess of the actual loss given to punish the person for the malicious conduct that caused the injury), or nominal (a trivial amount given because the injury is slight or because the exact amount of injury has not been determined satisfactorily).


A collection of information organized for rapid retrieval by computer. In legal research, it usually refers to a commercial service searched online. A full-text database provides the complete text of documents such as court cases or newspaper articles. Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis are full-text databases. A bibliographic database provides citations or abstracts of articles, books, reports, or patents.


See court decision.


A determination by a court of the rights and duties of the parties before it. Formerly, decrees were issued by courts of equity and distinguished from judgments, which were issued by courts of law. See equity.


The person against whom a civil or criminal action is brought.


A means of objecting to the sufficiency in law of a pleading by admitting the actual allegations made, but disputing that they frame an adequate legal claim.


See obiter dictum.


An index to reported cases, providing brief, unconnected statements of court holdings on points of law, which are arranged by subject and subdivided by jurisdiction and courts.

Docket number-

A number, sequentially assigned by the clerk at the outset to a lawsuit brought to a court for adjudication.

Due care-

The legal duty one owes to another according to the circumstances of a particular case.

Due process of law-

A term found in the fifth and fourteenth amendments of the u.s. constitution and also in the constitutions of many states. Its exact meaning varies from one situation to another and from one era to the next, but basically it is concerned with the guarantee of every person's enjoyment of his or her rights (e.g., the right to a fair hearing in any legal dispute).

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En banc-

A session in which the entire bench of the court will participate in the decision rather than the regular quorum. In other countries it is common for a court to have more members than are usually necessary to hear an appeal. In the united states, the circuit courts of appeals usually sit in groups of three judges but for important cases may expand the bench to nine members, when they are said to be sitting en banc.


A work containing expository statements on principles of law, topically arranged, with supporting footnote references to cases in point.


Justice administered according to fairness as contrasted with the strictly formulated rules of common law. It is based on a system of rules and principles that originated in england as an alternative to the harsh rules of common law and that were based on what was fair in a particular situation. One sought relief under this system in courts of equity rather than in courts of law.


 (1) the interest or right one has in real or personal property; or (2) the property itself in which one has an interest or right.

Executive agreement-

An international agreement, not a treaty, concluded by the president without senatorial consent on the president's authority as commander-in-chief and director of foreign relations. The distinction between treaty and executive agreement is complicated and often of questionable constitutionality, but the import of such agreements as that of yalta or potsdam is unquestionably great.

Executive order-

An order issued by the president under specific authority granted to the president by congress. There is no precise distinction between a presidential proclamation and an executive order; however, a proclamation generally cover matters of widespread interest, and an executive order often relates to the conduct of government business or to organization of the executive department. Every act of the president authorizing or directing the performance of an act, in its general context, is an executive order. See presidential proclamation.

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See microfiche.


A portal on the world wide web ( providing links to a wide range of law-related information. FindLaw is owned by West, but access is free of charge.

Form books-

Include sample instruments that are helpful in drafting legal documents.

Forms of action-

Governed common law pleadings and were the procedural devices used to give expression to the theories of liability recognized by the common law. Failure to analyze the cause of the action properly, to select the proper theory of liability and to choose the appropriate procedural mechanism or forms of action could easily result in being thrown out of court. A plaintiff had to elect his or her remedy in advance and could not subsequently amend the pleadings to conform to his or her proof or to the court's choice of another theory of liability. According to the relief sought, actions have been divided into three categories: real actions were brought for the recovery of real property; mixed actions were brought to recover real property and damages for injury to it; personal actions were brought to recover debts or personal property, or for injuries to personal, property, or contractual rights. The common law actions are usually considered to be eleven in number: trespass, trespass on the case, trover, ejectment, detinue, replevin, debt, covenant, account, special assumpsit, and general assumpsit.


A deception that causes a person to part with his or her property or a legal right.

Full text-

See database.

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Grand jury-

A jury of six to twenty-three persons that sits permanently for a specified period and that hears criminal accusations and evidence, and then determines whether indictments should be made. Compare with petit jury.

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A brief summary of a legal rule or significant facts in a case that precedes the printed opinion in reports.


Proceedings extensively employed by both legislative and administrative agencies. Adjudicative hearings of administrative agencies can be appealed in a court of law. Investigative hearings are often held by congressional committees prior to enactment of legislation, and are important sources of legislative history.


A database containing page images and searchable text of retrospective legal journals and other legal materials. Hein-on-line is provided by the William S. Hein & Co., Inc.


The declaration of the conclusion of law reached by the court as to the legal effect of the facts of the case.

Holograph or olograph-

A will, deed, or other legal document that is entirely in the handwriting of the signer.


The popular reference to a series of treatises published by West each of which reviews a certain field of law in summary, textual form, as opposed to a casebook that is designed as a teaching tool and includes many reprints of court opinions.

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A contractual arrangement whereby one party agrees to reimburse another for losses of a particular type.


 a formal accusation of a crime made by a grand jury at the request of a prosecuting attorney.


An accusation based not on the action of a grand jury but rather on the affirmation of a public official.


A judge's order that a person do or, more commonly, refrain from doing, a certain act. An injunction may be preliminary or temporary, pending trial of the issue presented, or it may be final if the issue has already been decided in court.


A worldwide system of thousands of interconnected computer networks using the tcp/ip protocols. The internet facilitates various data communication services.


Not having made a valid will.

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See court decision.


The power given to a court by a constitution or a legislative body to make legally binding decisions over certain persons or property, or the geographical area in which a court's decisions or legislative enactments are binding


(1) the science or philosophy of law; (2) a collective term for case law as opposed to legislation.

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Key Number-

A building block of the major indexing system devised for American case law, developed by West. The Key Number is a permanent number given to a specific point of this case law.

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Law review or law journal-

A legal periodical. The term law review usually describes a scholarly periodical edited by students at a law school.

Legislative history-

That information embodied in legislative documents that provides the meanings and interpretations (intent) of statutes. Citations and dates of legislative enactments, amendments, and repeals of statutes are sometimes imprecisely identified as legislative histories. More accurate designations of these citations of legislative changes, as included in codes, are historical notes or amendatory histories.


A subsidiary of Reed Elsevier plc. Lexis-Nexis is a database providing the full text of court decisions, statutes, administrative materials, alr annotations, law review articles, reporter services, supreme court briefs, and other items. Key-Word searches, natural language searches, segment searches, and citator searches are available.


The condition of being responsible either for damages resulting from an injurious act or for discharging an obligation or debt.


(1) written defamation of a person's character. Compare with slander; (2) in an admiralty court, the plaintiff's statement of the cause of action and the relief sought.


A claim against property as security for a debt, under which the property may be seized and sold to satisfy the debt.


 to bring a civil action in court.


A subsidary of aspen publishers. Loislaw is a database providing the full text of court decisions, statutes, administrative materials, and other sources.

Looseleaf services and reporters-

Contain federal and state administrative regulations and decisions or subject treatment of a legal topic. They consist of separate, perforated pages or pamphlet-sized inserts in special binders, simplifying frequent insertion or substitution of new material.

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Professional misconduct or unreasonable lack of skill. This term is usually applied to such conduct by doctors, lawyers, and accountants.

Mandatory authority-

Authority that a given court is bound to follow. Mandatory authority is found in constitutional provisions, legislation, and court cases. Compare with persuasive authority.


(1) an informal record; (2) a written document that may be used to prove that a contract exists; (3) an exposition of all the points of law pertaining to a particular case (referred to as a memorandum of law); or (4) an informal written discussion of the merits of a matter pending in a lawyer's office, usually written by a law clerk or junior associate for a senior associate or partner (referred to as an office memorandum).


A sheet of film, usually 4 x 6 inches or 3 x 5 inches in size, containing miniaturized photographic images of printed text. The term fiche is synonymous with microfiche. Ultrafiche is a type of microfiche containing images that are reduced by a factor of 90 or more.


A film containing miniaturized photographic images of printed text. This is usually in a reel, but may also be in a cartridge or cassette form.


A general term describing miniaturized reproduction of printed text on film or paper. Microfilm and microfiche are specific types of microform.

Model codes-

Codes formulated by various groups or institutions to serve as model laws for legislatures, intended to improve existing laws or unify diverse state legislation.

Moot point-

A point that is no longer a subject of contention and that is raised only for the purpose of discussion or hypothesis. Many law schools conduct moot courts where students gain practice by arguing hypothetical or moot cases.


A formal request made to a judge pertaining to any issue arising during the pendency of a lawsuit.

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National Reporter System-

The network of reporters published by West, which attempt to publish and digest all cases of precedential value from all state and federal courts.

Natural language-

An online database search strategy using normal english-language sentences or phrases instead of boolean commands. See boolean logic.


The failure to exercise due care.


The general and business news database of Lexis-Nexis, a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier plc. Nexis provides the full text of newspaper, magazine and newsletter articles, wire-service stories, and other items.

Nisi prius-

Generally, a court where a case is first tried, as distinguished from an appellate court.

Noter up-

(1) the term used in the british commonwealth countries for a citator; or (2) the name of the updating service for fundamentals of legal research and legal research illustrated.

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Obiter dictum-

An incidental comment, not necessary to the formulation of the decision, made by the judge in his or her opinion. Such comments are not binding as precedent.

Official reports-

Court reports directed by statute. Compare with unofficial reports.


An expression of the reasons why a certain decision (the judgment) was reached in a case. A majority opinion is usually written by one judge and represents the principles of law that a majority of his or her colleagues on the court deem operative in a given decision; it has more precedential value than any of the following. A separate opinion may be written by one or more judges in which he, she, or they concur in or dissent from the majority opinion. A concurring opinion agrees with the result reached by the majority, but disagrees with the precise reasoning leading to that result. A dissenting opinion disagrees with the result reached by the majority and thus disagrees with the reasoning and/or the principles of law used by the majority in deciding the case. A plurality opinion (called a judgment by the supreme court) is agreed to by less than a majority as to the reasoning of the decision, but is agreed to by a majority as to the result. A per curiam opinion is an opinion by the court that expresses its decision in the case but whose author is not identified. A memorandum opinion is a holding of the whole court in which the opinion is very concise.

Oral argument-

A spoken presentation of reasons for a desired decision directed to an appellate court by attorneys for the parties.


The equivalent of a municipal statute, passed by the city council and governing matters not already covered by federal or state law.

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Pamphlet supplement-

A paperbound supplement to a larger bound volume, usually intended to be discarded eventually.

Parallel citation-

A citation reference to the same case printed in two or more different reports.

Per curiam-

Literally, by the court. Usually a short opinion written on behalf of the majority of the court. It may be accompanied by concurring or dissenting opinions.


A publication appearing at regular intervals. Legal periodicals include law school publications, bar association publications, commercially published journals, and legal newspapers.

Permanent law-

An act that continues in force for an indefinite time.

Personal property-

 see property.

Persuasive authority-

That law or reasoning which a given court may, but is not bound to, follow. For example, decisions from one jurisdiction may be persuasive authority in the courts of another jurisdiction. Compare with mandatory authority.

Petit jury-

A group of six, nine, or twelve persons that decides questions of fact in civil and criminal trials. Compare with grand jury.


A formal, written application to a court requesting judicial action on a certain matter.


The person presenting a petition to a court, officer, or legislative body; the one who starts an equity proceeding or the one who takes an appeal from a judgment.


The person who brings a lawsuit against another.

Plea bargaining-

The process whereby the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case. It usually involves the defendant's pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only one or some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for a lighter sentence than that possible for the graver charge.


Technical means by which parties to a dispute frame the issue for the court. The plaintiff's complaint or declaration is followed by the defendant's answer; subsequent papers may be filed as needed.

Pocket supplement or pocket part-

A paperbound supplement to a book, inserted in the book through a slit in its back cover. Depending on the type of publication, it may have textual, case, or statutory references keyed to the original publication.

Popular name table-

A table listing popular names by which some cases and statutes have become known, and identifying for each popular name the official name and citation of the case or statute.


A World Wide Web site that is a starting site for users when they connect to the web or that users tend to visit as an anchor site.

Power of attorney-

A document authorizing a person to act as another's agent.


See stare decisis.

Preliminary prints-

The name given to the advance sheets of the official united states reports.


In criminal law, a written accusation made by the grand jury without the consent or participation of a prosecutor.

Presidential proclamations-

A declaration issued under specific authority granted to the President by Congress. Generally, it relates to matters of widespread interest. Some proclamations have no legal effect but merely are appeals to the public, e.g., the observance of American education week. See executive order.

Primary authority-

Constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations issued pursuant to enabling legislation, and case law. Primary authority may be either mandatory or persuasive. All other legal writings are secondary authority and are never binding on courts. See authority; mandatory authority; persuasive authority.

Private law-

An act that relates to a specific person.

Procedural law-

That law which governs the operation of the legal system, including court rules and rules of procedure, as distinguished from substantive law.


Ownership or that which is owned. Real property refers to land; personal property refers to moveable things or chattels; chose in action refers to a right to personal property of which the owner does not presently have possession but instead has a right to sue to gain possession (e.g., a right to recover a debt, demand, or damages in a contractual action or for a tort or omission of a duty).

Public law-

An act that relates to the public as a whole. It may be: (1) general (applies to all persons within the jurisdiction); (2) local (applies to a geographical area); or (3) special (relates to an organization that is charged with a public interest).

Ratio decidendi-

The point in a case that determines the result-the basis of the decision.

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Real property-

See property.


The documentation, prepared for an appeal, of the trial court proceedings (pleadings, motions, transcript of examination of witnesses, objections to evidence, rulings, jury instructions, opinion, etc.)

Records and briefs-

See appeal papers.

Regional reporter-

A unit of the National Reporter System that reports state court cases from a defined geographical area.


Rules or orders issued by various governmental departments to carry out the intent of the law. Agencies issue regulations to guide the activity of their employees and to ensure uniform application of the law. Regulations are not the work of the legislature and do not have the effect of law in theory. In practice, however, because of the intricacies of judicial review of administrative action, regulations can have an important effect in determining the outcome of cases involving regulatory activity. United states government regulations appear first in the federal register, published five days a week, and are subsequently arranged by subject in the code of federal regulations.


The remedy or redress sought by a complainant from the court.


To send back for further proceedings, as when a higher court sends back to a lower court.


(1) court reports-published judicial cases arranged according to some grouping, such as jurisdiction, court, period of time, subject matter, or case significance; and (2) administrative reports or decisions-published decisions of an administrative agency.


A formal expression of the opinion of a rule-making body adopted by the vote of that body.


The party who makes an answer to a bill in an equity proceeding or who contends against an appeal.

Restatements of the law-

Systematic restatements of the existing common law in certain areas, published by the American Law Institute since 1923. The restatements are valuable secondary research sources, but are not binding as law.

Revised statutes-

In popular usage, a code. Technically, it is a compilation of statutes in the order and wording originally passed by the legislature, with temporary and repealed acts deleted.

Rules of court-

The rules regulating practice and procedure before the various courts. In most jurisdictions, these rules are issued by the individual courts or by the highest court in that jurisdiction.

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(1) to assent to another's actions; (2) a penalty for violating a law.

Scope note-

A notation appearing below a topic heading in a publication, that delimits and identifies the content of the topic.

Search engine-

Software used to search data for specific information. On the internet, a search engine is a coordinated set of programs that seeks out the world wide web pages, indexes them, and enables searches for indexed pages to be run.

Secondary authority-

See primary authority.

Section line-

The subject of a Key Number in West's Key Number Digests, printed after the Key Number.

Session laws-

Laws enacted by a legislature that are published in bound or pamphlet volumes after adjournment of each regular or special session.


A trademark of Shepard's citations, inc., descriptive of the general use of its publications.


Oral defamation of a person's character. Compare with libel.

Slip law-

A legislative enactment published in pamphlet or single sheet form immediately after its passage.

Slip opinion-

An individual court case published separately soon after it is decided.


A very brief rendition of a single case or a single point of law from a case. Compare with headnote.

Star pagination-

A scheme in reprint editions of court reports used to show where the pages of the text of the official edition begin and end.

Stare decisis-

The doctrine of English and American law that states that when a court has formulated a principle of law as applicable to a given set of facts, it will follow that principle and apply it in future cases where the facts are substantially the same. It connotes the decision of present cases on the basis of past precedent.

Status table-

 gives the current status of a bill or court decision.


Acts of a legislature. Depending upon its context in usage, a statute may mean a single act of a legislature or a body of acts that are collected and arranged according to a scheme or for a session of a legislature or parliament.

Statutes at large-

The official compilation of acts passed by the U.S. Congress. The arrangement is currently by public law number, and by chapter number in pre-1951 volumes. This is the official print of the law for citation purposes where titles of the United States code have not been enacted into positive law.

Statutes of limitations-

 laws setting time limits after which a dispute cannot be taken to court.

Statutory instruments-

 english administrative regulations and orders. The term applies especially to the administrative rules published since 1939, supplementing the english administrative code, statutory rules and orders.

Statutory rules and orders-

 English administrative regulations and orders.

Style of a case-

The parties to a lawsuit as they are written in the heading at the beginning of a written case. Also known as the caption of a case.


A court order compelling a witness to appear and testify in a certain proceeding.

Substantive law-

That law which establishes rights and obligations, as distinguished from procedural law, which is concerned with rules for establishing their judicial enforcement.supersede- to displace or to supplant one publication or its segment with another. 



A notice delivered by a sheriff or other authorized person informing a person that he or she is the defendant in a civil action, and specifying a time and place to appear in court to answer to the plaintiff.


To displace or to supplant one publication or its segment with another.

Supreme Court-

(1) the court of last resort in the federal judicial system (the supreme court of the united states also has original jurisdiction in some cases); (2) in state judicial systems, except new york and massachusetts, the highest appellate court or court of last resort.


See headnote.

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Table of cases-

A list of cases, arranged alphabetically by case names, with citations and references to the body of the publication where the cases are found or treated.

Table of statutes-

A list of statutes with references to the body of the publication where the statutes are treated or construed.

Temporary law-

An act that continues in force for a limited period of time.

Term of court-

Signifies the space of time prescribed by law during which a court holds session. The court's session may actually extend beyond the term. The october term of the supreme court of the united states is now the only term during which the court sits, and lasts from october to june or july.


A civil wrong that does not involve a contractual relationship. The elements of a tort are a duty owed, a breach of that duty, and the resultant harm to the one to whom the duty was owed.

Transcript of record-

The printed record as made up in each case of the proceedings and pleadings necessary for the appellate court to review the history of the case.


An exposition, which may be critical, evaluative, interpretative, or informative, on case law or legislation. Usually it is more exhaustive than an encyclopedia article, but less detailed and critical than a law review article.


An agreement between two or more sovereign nations.


An unlawful interference with one's person, property, or rights. At common law, trespass was a form of action brought to recover damages for any injury to one's person or property or relationship with another.

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See microfiche.

Uniform laws-

Statutes drafted for adoption by the several states in the interest of uniformity. A considerable number of uniform laws on various subjects have been approved by the national conference of commissioners on uniform state laws, and have been adopted in one or more jurisdictions in the united states and its possessions. The uniform commercial code is now the law in forty-nine states.

Uniform system of citation-

See Bluebook.

Unofficial reports-

Court reports published without statutory direction. They are not distinguished from official reports on grounds of varying quality or accuracy of reporting.


An abbreviation for uniform resource locator. A url is a standard address for a resource or site on the internet. A url such as describes the access method used (http) and the location of the server hosting the site ( The most common use of a URL is to enter into a World Wide Web browser program such as Internet Explorer or Netscape.

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The particular geographical area where a court with jurisdiction may try a case.

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The voluntary relinquishment of a known right.


See World Wide Web.


The computerized legal research system of West. Westlaw provides the full text of court decisions, statutes, administrative materials, ALR annotations, law review articles, reporter services, Supreme Court briefs, and other items. Key Word searches, Natural Language searches, field searches, and citator searches are available.

World Wide Web or web-

A subset of the internet using hypertext links and mixing text, graphics, sound files, multimedia, etc. The web has become the major medium for publishing information on the internet.


A written order, of which there are many types, issued by a court and directed to an official or party, commanding the performance of some act.

Wrongful death-

A type of lawsuit brought by or on behalf of a deceased person's beneficiaries, alleging that the death was attributable to the willful or negligent act of another.

The Glossary is extracted from Fundamentals of Legal Research and Legal Research Illustrated, 8th Edition both by Mersky and Dunn, and published by Foundation Press.

This glossary was prepared by Fred R. Shapiro of Yale Law School.

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